Visiting Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali on Friday pitched for talks with India to resolve the outstanding boundary issue, saying finding a solution to it will help instill greater degree of trust and confidence in bilateral ties. In an address at the Indian Council of World Affairs, he also favoured early review of the Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 to better reflect the current reality of relationship and further consolidate cooperation.
On economic relations, Gyawali flagged concerns over Nepal's trade deficit with India, saying the Nepalese economy cannot sustain the "alarmingly high trade imbalance" and that his country proposed certain measures to help it expand its export base. "While both sides have agreed to resolve the boundary question through talks, we have also shown wisdom that despite the difference in one area, the momentum of our overall engagements is continued," he said referring to the boundary row. "We are also mindful that we should not let any outstanding issue between us be there forever and become irritant in an otherwise friendly relationship," he said.
Gyawali, on a three-day India visit, held wide-ranging talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday. Nepalese diplomatic sources said the boundary issue figured in an one-on-one meeting between the two foreign ministers. Ties between India and Nepal came under severe strain after Nepal last year published a new political map that showed the three Indian territories – Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh – as part of Nepal. Talking about Nepal's external engagement, Gyawali said his country pursued an independent foreign policy and its conduct is based on a "balanced outlook". "We do not harbour ill-will against anyone. Amity with all and enmity with none is our motto. Guided by the same principles, we seek to foster relations with neighbours and all friendly countries around the world," he said.
There have been concerns in India over China's growing efforts to increase influence over Nepal. "Our conviction is unwavering that Nepal-India friendship stands on a robust foundation. Our connection is deep and engagement comprehensive. Yet we should be mindful equally that healthy relations require continuous nurturing, creative thinking, promptness and readiness to understand each other in changing dynamics," he said.
Referring to border row, Gyawali said building and nurturing trust is absolutely essential for the health and harmony of any relationship, and added that "In this spirit, we desire to start the conversation with a view to resolving the question of boundary alignment in the remaining segments." "Many of you may be aware that Nepal and India share over 1,800 km long international boundary, most of which is jointly mapped. Only in the stretches of some kilometres, the work remains to be completed," he said. He said finding an "agreeable boundary" alignment in these segments may also help generate positive vibe in public sentiment as well as help instill greater degree of trust and confidence in bilateral relations. "I believe that we can work out and reach that stage," he said.
In his address, Gyawali also flagged concerns over Nepal's trade deficit with India. "In the process of the review of the bilateral trade arrangement, we have proposed certain measures that would offer us some genuine space and help us expand our export base. We expect positive and forthcoming consideration of these measures," he said.
"Nepal is not a competitor of India in trade. I am sure many of you would agree when I say that making Nepal economically strong serves India's interest too. We have likewise flagged a few proposals for expansion and streamlining of the current transit arrangements. We like to see an early conclusion of this review process as well," he said. The Nepalese foreign minister also referred to creation of an Eminent Persons' Group (EPG) in 2016 which was mandated to review the entire spectrum of Nepal-India relations and recommend measures to upgrade them.
"EPG has done its work and our job is to receive their report and implement. One of the tasks assigned to EPG was the task of recommending the inputs for the review of past treaties and agreement, including the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950," he said. "We have agreed to revise, adjust and update the Treaty to better reflect the current reality and to further consolidate and expand our friendship. We need to do it sooner than later," he added.